Rugby Union: Past Masters: five other Great Nz Teams

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Dave Gallaher's 1905 vintage

They became known as the "Originals" and the label could not have been more appropriate. The statistics of the tour were impressive enough - before losing, controversially, by a single score to Wales in their final fixture, the tourists won all 28 of their games with a points differential of 801-22 - and with Billy Stead, Billy Wallace, Charles Seeling and Gallaher himself among the personnel, future legends were two a penny. But the 1905ers did more than win matches and win them in style. They brought with them a whole new style of rugby, introducing the wing-forward role to British teams - Gallaher himself filled the revolutionary position - as well as the five-eighth theory of back play used by New Zealand sides to this day. Original indeed.

Cliff Porter's 1924 vintage

Nineteen years on, the "Originals" gave way to the "Invincibles". Unbeaten in 28 matches, the achievements of Porter's extravagantly gifted party earned it an honoured position at the very heart of New Zealand rugby lore, and there it remains. All Black aficionados down through the generations have cut their teeth on tales of George Nepia, Jock Richardson and the Brownlie brothers, one of whom, the hugely influential Cyril, managed to get himself dismissed during the Test at Twickenham. The All Blacks still beat a particularly strong England side (below) with something to spare and would surely have completed a first Grand Slam of Britain and Ireland had the Scots, still grumbling about an expenses row that had blown up during the 1905 tour, not refused them a fixture.

Bob Duff's 1956 vintage

If New Zealand touring sides had traditionally set sail with more strength in depth than the Spanish Armada, the 1956 home series against the Springboks saw them in extremis. It was backs-against-the-wall time for a nation whose very credibility had been undermined by a 4-0 thumping in South Africa seven years previously and if the outcome of this rubber was too close to call, its nature was entirely predictable. It was a fight from start to finish, always teetering on the brink of open warfare and often plummeting over the edge. When the dust settled, the All Blacks were heroes once more: Kevin Skinner, Tiny White, Peter Jones, Don Clarke (pictured left), every one an instant folk hero. South Africa's 3-1 reverse brought to an end two decades of worldwide dominance.

Brian Lochore's 1967 vintage

Generally regarded by British observers as one of the two finest touring sides to visit these islands in the post-war era - the 1951 Springboks were the others - Lochore's party set radical new standards by running the ball at every opportunity (hardly an approach associated with All Black sides of the 1950s and early 1960s). Denied a shot at the Grand Slam by an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Ireland, they drew 3- 3 with East Wales on a snow-bound ground in Cardiff and won the rest of their games with varying degrees of brilliance. Their pack was truly great - Ken Gray, Colin Meads (pictured right after being sent off against Scotland), Kel Tremain, Waka Nathan and Lochore himself were good enough to play in any side of any era - and in Fergie McCormick, they possessed a towering competitor at full-back.

David Kirk's 1987 vintage

The first World Cup-winning side and one boasting spectacular gifts in every department. If ever an All Black team possessed an embarrassment of riches, this was it: Gallagher, Kirwan, Stanley, Fox, McDowell, Fitzpatrick, the Whetton brothers, Shelford and the staggering Michael Jones were all on board and not surprisingly, they never looked remotely in danger of having to dig deep. As so often in the past, a New Zealand team scaled new heights in the back-row disciplines, with Shelford, Jones and Alan Whetton running amok. They had iron in the soul, too; Shelford, in particular, could frighten opposition packs on his own. Kirk (pictured left with the World Cup), a scrum-half of deep intelligence, quit the scene almost immediately but the fabric of the side remained, unbeaten, until the end of the decade.

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